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Al-Masri Egyptian in SF

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  • S Bardell May 22, 2001 09:26 PM
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Been wanting to get to this Egyptian spot on outer Balboa ever since it opened. Finally made it.

Very attractive decor. Skillful and pleasant belly dancer. Tiny wine list of good choices but nothing listed by the glass. Oddly, I thought, for a storefront, full bar.

Wonderful "maza" plate for about $15. Super baba ghanoush (spelled Egyptian-style "babghannoug"), very good hummus, very good stuffed grape leaves as well as tabbouleh, plus feta, marinated hot peppers, pickled turnips, carrots,& olives. My companion said the falafel, which I skipped, was bland. Pita was good too.

My main dish, kushari, also about 15, consisted of slightly overcooked but v. satisfying mix of rice, lentils, and noodles, topped with fried onions and garnished with a hot chile sauce and a generous, fresh green salad.

My friend had samak mahshi, around $21, which consisted of a whole croaker fish served with pine nuts, fried onions, rice, and more. Non-veg main courses include a choice among several Egyptian vegetables: "jute plant" (which was more sauce than solid), okra, sauced peas, black eyed peas, taro, and spinach in tomato sauce.

Our experience was somewhat marred by the fact that the rather boastful owner (we have the "best" dancer, use the best paint on the trim, you-name-it) was waiting tables. Took a long time for food to come, and afterward plates were never, ever removed! Nor was my request for another piece of pita acknowledged. No desserts were proferred. And, after graciosuly offering to open any wine on his tiny list and sell us a glass, he ended up bringing unlisted but not unplatabale merlot for me and, ugh, a white zin for my friend, when we'd both requested other choices. He charged $5 for each. (I wish I knew the right literary reference for making this kind of almost-funny empty gesture.)

Just the same, the food was fresh-tasting and very flavorful. I'd go back, especially to try the quail or squab. (There's a somewhat confounding comment on the menu: "We substitute young squab for pigeon to maintain ethnic authenticity ....")

Perhaps the boss will have hired a server by the next time. I doubt he'll have discovered humility!

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